December 30, 2014 4 Comments
I can’t remember the last time I ran so little. The last two months I’ve averaged around 8 to 12 miles a week, which is less than when I started running in March of 2009. Even when injured, I’ve been able to routinely knock out at least 100 miles per month, with consistency being the name of the game. But since November 1, I’ve decided to take it easy. For once, finally.
Though it wasn’t my choice.
The story is familiar to those who have been following my race stories. In October, I tried to run two marathons in one weekend, and ended up aggravating my right IT band. Four weeks later, I was scheduled to run a marathon, and instead of taking it easy, I decided to chase a fast time. Despite my knee hurting for 22 miles, I managed a one-minute PR. After that, I decided, it was time to rest.
And rest I have. This hasn’t been “rest” like diehard runners do, where they take two days off and then make up for the absence with hard intervals. I’ve legitimately sat at home and let my trainers collect dust, even as picture perfect 45-degree days beckon me with perfectly blue skies. Almost two months later, my right knee seems to be back to normal. I haven’t fully tested it out, as I haven’t gone on any runs longer than 8 miles. But so far, it feels great, fresh and ready for the challenges of the new year. But before we can look forward, it’s fun to cast our glance backwards and see what the year on our feet has brought us.
This year didn’t quite have a defined purpose like theprevious ones have. 2011 was the year of the marathon, where I went beyond the one-a-year mindset and began exploring the distance in depth. 2012 was the year of geography, with states being added to the log like cereal boxes in a shopping cart. 2013 was the year of the ultra and that mythical realm beyond the banner marked 26.2. This year, for better or worse, was a little scatterbrained.
There were new states, to be sure. I ran through the deserts of New Mexico, past Midwestern monuments and on the shores of New England. I ran on school campuses, Air Force bases and national parks. There was an ultra thrown in for good measure (though my performance was far from good). But most notably of all, it was also a year for speed. I lowered my 25-month old half marathon PR to 1:29 and inched ever closer to my Boston Qualifying time by notching a new marathon PR of 3:22.
Those last two stats are incredibly important for me. I’m not just a runner because I like improving my times. Though few of us like to admit it, there will eventually come a time when we simply can’t get faster. It’s about self improvement, be that longer distances, faster times or simply being the best runner that you can be. For now, though, despite the dalliances in ultra distances and running certain races “for fun,” I’m still very much a competitive runner. And that means running fast.
So though it might be tempting to remember 2014 as the year where I ran a 3:22 marathon while very injured, I’m confident that the history books will focus elsewhere. Instead, I will remember how an otherwise nondescript excursion to Maryland became an opportunity to catch up with a good friend and meet her entire extended family. I will fondly recall the trip to New Mexico, where I got together with old friends from college and new friend from the internet. Memories of a brutal 50k and the generous friends who drove us across the state will always come up when I think of Wyoming, just as a lifelong friendship that started in high school will color my thoughts of Maine and New Hampshire.
And so, with my legs recovering from a pretty intense year, it’s time to look ahead to 2015, a year with a singularly ambitious goal: a Boston qualifying time. As a known sandbagger, I don’t always like to publish my expectations, but with a goal as lofty as running a 3:04 marathon, I need to light multiple fires under my ass to make it happen. About a month ago, I earned a spot at the 2015 Berlin Marathon, the fastest marathon in the world, and that is where I will attempt my first ever BQ. As monumental as that day will be, I won’t start it alone.
This is a point I can’t emphasize enough. Though running itself is a lonely man’s game, this project of mine has been anything but lonesome. Though I may not have known was 2014 was really “about,” it took a Christmas missive from a relative to put it all in perspective. 2014 was about solidarity, support and family. From the outpouring of emotion at the Miami Marathon, run with a charity for my dearly departed uncle, to pacing my father-in-law at the Air Force Marathon, it was about using the sport to help others.
Every state has written a new story about people, those who joined the race, offered kind words of support, opened their homes, or met me afterward for a sweaty drink. This countrywide, soon to be global effort would mean nothing were it not for the truly wonderful people that have helped me with each and every race. Runners sometimes get a bad rap for talking about their sport too much. But if you felt this much love, I don’t see why you’d want to talk about anything else.
On your feet, everyone, always moving forward, onwards.
Happy New Year, share your experiences, and look at that map! Almost done!